U.S. News’ Big 2015 MBA Ranking Winners & Losers

The Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota advanced in U.S. News' ranking

The Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota advanced in U.S. News’ ranking

At some business schools, the champagne will be flowing today. At other schools, there will be an awkward quiet moment. It all depends on how U.S. News ranked the schools’ full-time MBA programs.

Some 16 schools on the new list of the top 100 U.S. MBA programs rose in double-digits this year, while 13 schools suffered double-digit declines. The biggest winners were several schools that weren’t even ranked last time around. They include the University of Louisville, which jumped at least 31 places to land at a rank of 70th, and the University of Massachusetts in Amherst which had to rise a minimum of 27 positions to place 74th from being nowhere on the list the previous year.

And the biggest losers happen to be several MBA programs that disappeared from the U.S. News ranking. Among them, Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business School, which had been ranked 76th last year, and the University of Delaware’s Lerner College of Business, which had been ranked 80th. There were 12 schools that did the disappearing act this year but none fell further than Pepperdine and Delaware.


In most cases, the big drops and climbs occurred a second-tier schools. More subtle changes impacted the truly prominent schools with global reputations and brands. Some 16 of the top 25 schools experienced changes in rank, though mostly by one or two places. The big Top 25 winner, besides Stanford which took sole possession of first place from Harvard and Wharton, was Washington University’s Olin School of Business. Olin jumped three spots to finish 19th.

But there also were strong showings by the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School, which rose six places to 27th, the University of Iowa’s Tippie School, which advanced eight places to 43rd, and Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business, which improved seven positions to 48th. Oddly, Wake Forest University’s business school, which only last October announced that it would exit the full-time MBA market, rose 13 places to finish 45th.

On the downside, the top 50 schools that lost significant ground included the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which dropped 12 places to finish 47th, and Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management, which fell 13 spots to rank 53rd. The University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management plunged eight positions to rank 56th.


What causes a school to either go up or down in U.S. News’ ranking? The magazine uses seven core metrics in its methodology to rank full-time MBA programs, from surveys of deans and MBA directors and corporate recruiters to school-reported stats that include average GMAT and GPA scores, starting salaries and bonuses of the latest graduating class, as well as placement rates at graduation and three months later. Even slight changes in any of these metrics can cause a school to either fall or climb in the rankings.

Obviously, big drops are more often than not the result of falls in several metric categories, while sizable gains are often caused by improvement across the board. But because so many of the underlying index scores used to give a school its actual numerical rank are close, it’s possible that a significant drop or rise can result from meaningless changes in a key metric.

(See following page for the double-digit gains and decliners)


About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.